Live Aid, Farm Aid, the Prince’s Trust shows. Now there’s For Our Children, a family concert to raise money for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation (PAF), a nonprofit organization that funds research on the effects of HIV/AIDS on children.
The 100-minute telethon, which celebrates kids and childhood, will air Feb. 16. Hosted by young TV stars Mayim Bialik (Blossom), Kadeem Hardison (A Different World), Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D.), and Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210), among others, and filmed live at the Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif., it features acts tailored to preschoolers, prepubescents, and ages in between. For toddlers, there’s Ted Danson’s whimsical (although rather distracted) reading of the inspirational classic The Little Engine That Could. Slightly older kids are invited to sing along with Melissa Etheridge (”The Green Grass Grew All Around”), Randy Newman (”I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”), and the somewhat condescending Peter Alsop (”I am a Pizza”). They’ll also enjoy the segment in which Cheers’ Woody Harrelson, boyishly charming in oh-so-casual Birkenstock sandals, performs a folk song called ”I Told the Sun That I Was Glad,” accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Older kids will groove to teen rap sensation Kris Kross performing their ”Krossed Out Version of a Nursery Rhyme” (”His baby sister named Mary had a little jam/ That was destined to make a lotta dough/Everywhere Mary went to play her jam/The crowd always gave her a ‘Ho!”’) and percussionist-singer Sheila E. doing her equally hip version of ”Mary Had a Little Lamb” — not to mention heartthrob singer Gerardo (with his shirt on) running through the audience belting out ”Loop-De-Loo” to the screams of little girls. And when Hula Hoop expert Mat Plendl spins dozens of hoops on his neck, arms, and legs, kids of all sizes will cheer.
The evening’s showstopper, however, is one-man symphony Bobby McFerrin, who, reenacts The Wizard of Oz — everything from the film’s overture to the Munchkins’ song ”We Wish to Welcome You to Munchkinland” to the shrill shrieks of the Wicked Witch of the West. McFerrin even throws water on himself at the end. The result: a standing ovation from the kid-filled audience of more than 6,200.
Throughout the telethon, the hosts also helpfully dispel some myths about AIDS. Neil Patrick Harris jokes, ”I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV,” and then goes on to reassure kids that they can’t get AIDS from sharing a cookie, riding on a bus, or hugging a friend. Paula Abdul, dressed in a neon and black jacket and big hat, holding an old-fashioned umbrella (which makes her look like a cross between Jiminy Cricket and Mary Poppins), does her part by reminding everyone that ”kids don’t stop being kids because of HIV.” PAF founder Elizabeth Glaser, whose own family has been stricken by the disease, makes a plea for compassion and financial support.
Informative and entertaining as this telethon is, kids may not be able to stay tuned for the whole show; after all, 100 minutes is a long time — especially when the program includes Michael Bolton’s endless rendition of ”You Are My Sunshine.” Still, the message of kindness is an important one and the medical information may be crucial to kids; parents are likely to find this concert a useful opportunity to reassure youngsters who have questions about AIDS. A-